Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE) is renewing its warning to be extra vigilant for cyber attacks amid the arrival of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his speech to Parliament on Friday.
Zelenskyy arrived in Canada on Thursday — his first visit since 2019. He is set to address Parliament in person this time, the second since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“As previously noted, we have observed that it’s not uncommon to see increased distributed denial of service (DDoS) campaigns against NATO countries that support Ukraine, or host visits from Ukrainian government officials,” the CSE release states.
The CSE is urging website operators to adopt “a heightened state of vigilance, and to bolster their awareness of and protection against malicious cyber threats.”
The CSE is Canada’s signals intelligence agency, and responsible for protecting Canadian government networks. The agency and its Canadian Centre for Cyber Security also work closely with cyber-defence colleagues and critical infrastructure operators in the private sector to monitor and detect potential threats.
Multiple Canadian government websites were targets of cyberattacks this month.
Websites for Yukon, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island and Nunavut were all shut down Sept. 14. P.E.I. and Yukon said cyberattacks were behind their outages. The Quebec government also attributed a cyberattack this month to the pro-Russian hacker group NoName.
Officials in the three latter jurisdictions said cyberattackers used the denial-of-service tactic, in which the target website is flooded with too many requests and crashes.
The CSE said in June that the federal government faced “hourly” cyberattacks by hostile foreign actors.
Sami Khoury of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security — part of the CSE — said then that the agency has ongoing protection in place, and partners with corporations to act in kind. But he warned that Russia and Russian-aligned hackers are also ramping up efforts to disrupt critical infrastructure.
“On an average day we block between five and six billion signals coming against the government,” Khoury told Mercedes Stephenson in an interview on The West Block that month. “These are automated systems that are looking for vulnerabilities. Having said that, we hear about incidents in the private sector constantly.”
The June warning came after the CSE issued a threat assessment earlier that month that Russian-aligned hackers may seek to disrupt Canada’s oil and natural gas sector, especially since Ottawa is a strong backer of Ukraine.
The assessment said Russia had repeatedly deployed destructive cyberattacks against its adversaries as geopolitical crises escalate and expect those attacks to continue. It warned not only that Canada’s oil and gas infrastructure presents a number of vulnerable targets, but could also be impacted by an attack on U.S. assets “due to cross-border integration.”
“We assess that the intent of this activity is very likely to disrupt critical services for psychological impact, ultimately to weaken Canadian support for Ukraine,” it said.
— With files from Global News’ Sean Boynton and Eric Stober
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